is a product of the amazing NYC loft scene of the 1970s, where players from around the world gathered in a rare period of community, harmony, and creativity, a time when a relative unknown from California could meet and play with the great musicians on this disc. William Parker
was already a phenomenon at the time, but there was no way to predict the depth of his amazing ultimate contribution to music. Denis Charles
had already been on pivotal albums with Sonny Rollins
, Cecil Taylor
, and Steve Lacy
but was just coming back from the obscurity of his own musical hiatus. Arthur Williams
had played with Milford Graves
and Cecil Taylor but was greatly unrecognised beyond the Lower East Side. Kondo was just over from Japan and a relative unknown in the US but, like William, a phenomenon in the making. There is exuberance in the music that reflects the spirit of the times, and I am really happy to have the unedited live broadcast performance released as played for the first time. (The original release was edited to fit the limitations of an LP).
The live set with Denis is an added bonus for me. I had no idea the recording existed, and we simply don’t have enough of Denis’ music in this world. He’s in great spirits here and a joy to listen to, as always. It was a fun night and road trip as he told stories about his mentors Art Blakey
, Ed Blackwell
, and Sonny Rollins and we discussed the night’s music.
The jazz life is known for tragedy and majesty. Arthur died only a few years after this broadcast, and while Denis lived decades more, he too is no longer with us. Balancing the heights of near telepathic communion and creative openness with the harsh realities of economics, politics, and daily life is a tall order even for a creative improvising artist. Too many of us burn out, die young, or succumb to addiction or other maladies. In my case, as I was gaining international acclaim with Livin' Right
and albums on the Hat Hut and Soul Note labels, the disease of addiction was progressing to the point I could barely function as a human being, let alone as a creative artist. While John Coltrane
was a huge inspiration, it took me many years and a lot of suffering before I could follow his example finding freedom from addiction and on a spiritual path. In my ignorance, I had confused drugs as being spiritual for many years.
Addiction led to jails and other institutions before I found my way to recovery in 1986. As I struggled to support a habit, music clearly fell to the wayside and most of my instruments were lost to the pawn shop. In recovery, music was always in my heart, but I had to learn how to square up, hold a job, raise a family, and take care of the inner work needed to have what I most wanted to offer. Where music was a path to well-being back in the day, the rest of my life was pretty much a drag. Today the path of well-being has led me back to making music, and I can approach the instrument with a greater sense of identity and fulfillment.The Other Shore
is my first release as leader in over 30 years and features the exceptional talents of drummer- percussionist Nathan Hubbard
and bassist Kyle Motl
. Having become the foundation for a regular working group, their musicianship and virtuosity is an inspiration and elevates our musical dialog as it continues to develop. I’m grateful to NoBusiness for the opportunity to have our music heard and for their high standard of excellence. I hope this music is a testament to humanities great capacity for healing, transformation, and joy. In Buddhist terms, we leave the shore of ill-being (ignorance, samsara) to cross over to “the other shore” of well-being (understanding, nirvana). In improvised music, every sound and element has value in the collective improvisation. If I have a message, it’s that the same is true in our lives. Everything has spiritual value if we have the eyes and ears to make use of it. Our capacity for liberation is unlimited, and I hope this music helps you, the listener, on the path.
Peter Kuhn is ordained in the Plum Village Zen Buddhist tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. He remains active in helping others find freedom from addiction and in the Prison Meditation Project of San Diego, California.